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Arby's founders Leroy Raffel and Forrest Raffel

Arby's founders Leroy Raffel (left) and Forrest Raffel with giant roast beef sandwich and original Arby's sign.

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History of Arby's

Arby's was founded in 1964, but the concept for a roast beef sandwich franchise was rooted many years earlier. Forrest Raffel, and his younger brother Leroy, bought an uncle's restaurant equipment business in the 1950s. The small company rapidly grew to become one of the country's leading foodservice consulting firms. Raffel Brothers, Inc. designed and installed hundreds of foodservice facilities including the flight kitchens at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, interiors of six Ohio Turnpike restaurants, and foodservice facilities for the Hospitality Inn motel chain of Standard Oil of Ohio.

The Raffel brothers quickly sensed the potential of fast food and decided to develop a franchise operation based on something other than hamburgers. A late-night excursion to a small Boston sandwich shop one rainy Halloween was the inspiration for the Raffels, who joined a damp, but determined huddle of patrons to await the main attraction – a 69-cent roast beef sandwich.

The idea was born. The only kink in the chain's orderly development came with choosing a name. The partners wanted to use the name " Big Tex", but were unsuccessful in negotiating with the Akron businessman who was already using the name. So, in the words of Forrest, "We came up with Arby's, which stands for R.B., the initials of Raffel Brothers, although I guess customers might think the initials stand for roast beef."

The first Arby's restaurant opened in Boardman, Ohio, on July 23, 1964, serving only roast beef sandwiches, potato chips, and a beverage. This was the only Arby's restaurant for a year as the brothers refined the operation. One year later, the first Arby's licensee opened a restaurant in Akron, Ohio. Today, more than 500 licensees operate more than 3,200 restaurants worldwide.




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